On The Avenue

It Should’ve Been Rita’s 100th Birthday Party

by Debbie Bancroft Photographed by Angela Pham/BFA.com
Thursday, October 25, 2018
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Rita Hayworth, the ultimate movie star when there were some, sadly succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease at a cruelly young age. Her devoted daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Kahn created the Alzheimer’s Association Rita Hayworth Gala 35 years ago to honor her and to raise funds to combat this dreaded disease that 5.7 million people are living with. Happily, this year’s event raised in the millions as well—$1.6 million. The event was held on Tuesday, October 23, just a few days after what would have been Rita’s 100th birthday.


NBC’s Willie Geist again emceed and reminded us that only this week, Sandra Day O’Connor announced her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. There were uplifting moments, too. Longtime advocate David Hyde Pierce noted the strides in funding for research. The Johnson family, whose beloved Libit (Elizabeth Ross Johnson), died from Alzheimer’s at only 66, was honored with the Champion Award for their support. Yasmin (resplendent in an embroidered Naeem Khan dress) told us “Libit was passionate, kind, adventurous, thoughtful and devoted.” Her son, Oliver Johnson Kennan, accepted the award on behalf of his family.


The relaxed, country western theme, carried through the performances. Country western star Jay Allen took the stage and said, ‘I just met Martha Stewart at the bar! That was cool!” He then brought his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, on the stage, held her tightly and sang the song he wrote for her—‘Blank Stares.’ We blotted our tears and were roused by Patty Smyth McEnroe show stopping ballad, ‘Stand By Your Man.’ Hers, John, was front and center. And chair Anne Hearst McInerney’s favorite Western band, The California Cowboys, who made their New York City debut, packed the dance floor.


Glamorous cowpokes included: Gala Steering Committee members Margo Castimatidis, Nurit Kahane Haas, Karyn Kornfeld, Louis Kornfeld, Robin Meltzer and Martha Webster and Benefit Committee Members Liliana Cavendish, Hilary Dick, Diandra deMorrell Douglas, Laura Durning, Blaise Labriola, Michele Herbert and Andrea Stark and guests Sandra and Eric Ripert, who told me he was actually looking forward to Cipriani’s food, Christopher Mason, in a ‘camp cowboy ‘ headdress with his signature color, orange, flowers and pheasant feathers, Stellene Volandes, Candace Bushnell, Patty Raynes, Chuck Scarborough, Jay McInerney in a fetching bolo, Rachel Hovnanian in what I dubbed ‘spaghetti western boots—uber chic, white and embroidered she found in Italy, of course,  Nicole Miller in her shredded denim and diamonds look from her spring runway, and Milly de Cabrol, channeling Dolly Parton in undulating, purple sequins.


 


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